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From the Valley to the Mountaintop

The birth of our twin granddaughters reminds me of the lessons God teaches us in the joys and the hardships of life.

By Dennis Rainey

As the Rocky Mountains push heavenward out of the Great Plains, they display deep, lush valleys and majestic, sun-drenched peaks. Both the valleys and the peaks exude beauty and glory in their unique way. Together they declare the spectrum of life—pinnacle and exhilaration, contrasted with depths and darkness.

On our honeymoon in the fall of 1972, Barbara and I soaked in the golden glitter of aspen groves and dozens of “Rocky Mountain Highs.” We hiked, fished, picnicked, and took hundreds of pictures. And we nearly froze to death when we camped out at 9,000 feet as snow blanketed our little tent. It was a true mountain-top experience … one of the top three trips we’ve ever taken.

Thirty-six years later Barbara and I would journey through a very different Colorado terrain that we’d never forget, this time a deep valley. It was June 13, 2008, and a newborn baby girl whom I called “Mighty Molly” plunged us on a sojourn through the most profound valley that we had ever encountered.

Mighty Molly was the first-born child of our daughter Rebecca and her husband, Jake, who lived in Denver at the time. A rare aneurism in Molly’s brain snuffed out her life in a mere seven days. Hope gave way to grief as the grim reality about their baby became apparent.

Half her brain was gone. She was blind. Likely deaf. And machines were keeping her alive.

As Rebecca’s dad, I never knew that a father’s heart could be so crushed and hurt for his daughter.

I never expected that time in the valley would last so long. But just 11 months later we were sitting on Molly’s grave, mourning the loss of Rebecca and Jake’s second child, Micah. A miscarriage after only 16 weeks.

Two children dead and buried in the same grave. This was not what any of us anticipated.

“Guess what, Daddy?”

Our hearts continued to ache for Jake and Rebecca. We marveled as we watched them grieve unspeakable losses and lean upon God during those deep, dark days.

And then Rebecca and Jake called me at work. “Guess what, Daddy? We just had an ultrasound and I’m pregnant … with TWINS!”

I began to sob. In fact, I cried so hard, that I began to laugh. On many occasions I’ve laughed until I’ve cried, but I’d never cried until I laughed. It was perhaps the most unusual joy that I’d ever experienced.

Could it be that the Lord God would be so gracious to my daughter and Jake, that He would give them two babies? God didn’t owe them anything, but it sure looked like He was going to give them a double portion.

I gave thanks to God for the possibility of hope. But inwardly I battled the thought: Should I dare to hope again for Rebecca and Jake, after they had lost so much? Fear and hope flip-flopped in my heart in the months that followed.

Finally, after a full 38 weeks of pregnancy, Barbara and I returned to the Rockies, this time for a true twin mountaintop experience. An ounce shy of 13 pounds of babies, Lily (6 pounds, 10 ounces) and Piper (6 pounds, 5 ounces) arrived.

Two healthy little girls, twin peaks, now frame the valley. Notice I didn’t say that the twins “dwarfed” the valley or “replaced” the valley. Like a picture frame, Lily and Piper have provided a border and context for the valley we experienced with Molly and Micah.

Reflections on valleys and mountaintops

So why am I so focused on geography? Because these journeys down through the valley and back up to the twin peaks caused me to reflect on the lessons learned in each. I’ve had a profound experience with God in both places.

A study of the Scriptures reveals that throughout history God has used both valleys and mountaintops to accomplish His purposes. Scripture records that God clearly made both so that we might encounter Him there.

Consider how God showed up and showed off on a few famous biblical summits:

  • On Mount Sinai, where Moses hid behind a rock when the glory of God passed by, and God etched the Ten Commandments on stone (Exodus 20).

  • On a mountaintop, the King of kings was transfigured and revealed His glory (Matthew 17).

  • From the Mount of Olives, Jesus ascended after the resurrection (Acts 1:6-11).

God shows up in the valleys, too:

  • In the Valley of Achor, He judged sin (Joshua 7).He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23), so we will fear no evil.

  • In the Garden of Gethsemane, which is at the base of the Mount of Olives and is ultimately a valley, Christ spent the night in prayer and in agony about going to the cross.

God is indeed the God of the peaks and the valleys.

The view from the valley

One would think that the best view comes from the top of the mountain. But I agree with a Puritan book of prayers called The Valley of Vision, which states that we see much more clearly in the depths of the valley.

Life in that valley with Molly and Micah was very focused. We were all intensely dependent upon God as we walked through the “valley of the shadow of death.”

Conclusion: You really can see God and the essence of life more clearly in the valleys.

The soil in the valley

It seems that the soil in some valleys is more fertile. And we know from Jesus’ teachings that the soil is the key to growth.

Conclusion: Not all lessons are learned in the valley, but it sure seems like the most profound times of growth are found there.

The battle in the valley

David and Goliath held their epic battle in a valley between two mountains (1 Samuel 17). And then there is the famous valley of Armageddon, where the “last battle” will be fought (Revelation 16:16). There are a lot of battles in valleys.

Our valley found us doing combat in our hearts between faith and doubt. Would we extinguish the arrows of the enemy with faith and believe the truth about God and Scripture? Would we accept that God did not stop being good when a tiny vein in Molly’s brain malfunctioned?

Conclusion: Valleys are where significant battles of faith are fought. And either won or lost.

High places

But life would be boring and without dimension if our journey only involved pushing on through one valley after another. God doesn’t just leave us in valleys. He also gives us mountaintop experiences to enjoy. As Habakkuk 3:19 tells us, “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.”

Conclusion: The mountaintop is doubly sweet today.

Two final questions: Where are you today in your journey? And regardless of whether it’s a valley or a mountain top or in between, are you surrendered to the One Who made both and are you walking by faith with Him?

Copyright © by FamilyLife. Used with permission.

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